Food Republic’s Richard Martin and Chris Shott are two Brooklyn dads who like to drink good wine. Occasionally, they compare notes on what they’re drinking and post them here for proper sommeliers to ridicule. Follow them on Delectable: @richardmartin1, @chrisshott.
RM: What are we drinking today?
CS: Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010. This “Gran Selezione” descriptor is the new category of Chianti Classico — we’re talking primo stuff, 80 percent Sangiovese, aged 36 months, using only grapes from the producer’s own vineyards, or so they say. How do you like it?
RM: It’s good, nice spice, pretty big.
CS: For real.
RM: That’s what I’m finding delving into the Tuscan wines, they’re not subtle. So tell me about your recent forays into Chianti-land.
CS: Well, let’s see…. I had a nice Chianti Classico last night, Fattoria Rodano 2011. It was pretty big and rich, but all I wrote on my tasting notes was the obvious joke: “Hints of fava beans, liver…”
RM: Cue Chris Shott, wine expert, telling us the difference between Chianti Classico, regular Chianti, Chianti jugs with wicker. This is why we did that video with Joshua Nadel [beverage director for chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants in New York City]. Chianti Classico is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma….
CS:Here’s a question: We’ve all heard about the “Sideways Effect,” how that movie impacted sales of Merlot (which tanked) and Pinot Noir (which spiked).
RM: OK, how does that apply? Are you drunk already? We’re talking Tuscany today.
CS: My question is, what impact do you think Silence of the Lambs had on Chianti sales? [In the popular film, an imprisoned killer talks about eating a victim’s liver “with fava beans and a nice Chianti.”]
RM: Oh, ha! Makes sense.
CS: I mean, Hannibal Lecter was a murderous psychopath, but he had great taste.
RM: Probably increased sales for cannibals and Anthony Hopkins fans, decreased for non-psychopaths. I could see it being a good pairing, though.
CS: Incidentally, I was looking around online and there is a Cannibal Chianti. Or there was. Not sure how well that conforms with DOC rules.
RM: OK, well, if you’re gonna be coy about Chianti, I’m gonna talk Super Tuscans, which is basically a made-up term for wines from the same-ish area of Chianti but that don’t have at least 80 percent Sangiovese.
RM: So winemakers in the area blend in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, maybe some Sangiovese too. And since like 1982 or something, it’s been known as Super Tuscan, which basically means that Americans will pay more for it.
CS: It’s a great marketing gimmick and pretty telling that there is no equivalent term in Italian.
RM: I tried about a dozen Super Tuscans in the past couple weeks, probably averaging $30 per bottle (which is on the low end for STs). What was your price average for all the Chianti you drank?
CS: Not counting the one we’re drinking now? Around $20 to $25. This one is a bit pricier.
RM: How much was this one?
CS: Almost $50.
CS: Again, this is “Gran Selezione.”
RM: You’re not expensing this, are you?
CS: Yes! Why? By the way, “Gran Selezione” is Italian for “Huge Sucker,” apparently. But I wanted to try it. What was the most Super of the Super Tuscans you’ve tried?
RM: Well, I did extra Wine Dads research and actually met with a Super Tuscan winemaker, Marilisa Allegrini, whose family has been making wines in the Veneto for generations. She turned me on to Amarone, which I was surprisingly unfamiliar with, but that’s a story for another day.
CS: Can’t Amarone just hop into a quick-change booth and emerge a Super Tuscan?
RM: Her wines from Bolgheri, which is home to the most famous Super Tuscans, were really good examples of the genre.
CS: Nice. And do those come with a supersized price tag?
RM: Some of ’em, but not too bad, really. I really enjoyed her 100 percent Cabernet Franc Poggio Al Tosoro, which was a whopping 15 percent ABV but still really tasty.
CS: 15 percent! Now that is Super.
RM: That’s my takeaway from my exploration of Super Tuscans — they’re like Napa Cabs in their ABV percentages but drink a lot smoother, with a depth that makes them great with food (non-human ingredients). I also like Aia Vecchio’s Super Tuscans. Aia Vecchio is a small, family-owned winery run by Elia Pellegrini, who gave up a pro soccer career to take over the family biz. Their Aia Vecchio Langone Toscana is a bold red that’ll only set you back like 20 bucks.
CS: That’s nice. What about Marilisa Allegrini — did she clue you in at all as to how outsiders like us can come to understand the dizzying layers of rules and classifications of Italian wine?
RM: Not really. We did have some delicious pizzas at Marta, though.
CS: That’s something!
RM: One last note on Super Tuscans. I guess a lot of wine experts call bullshit on the Trump-esque taxonomy, which is essentially a hyperbolic version of “blend,” but I kind of give the Tuscan winemakers credit. I am part Italian-American, I’ve been drinking Italian wines for years, and I can’t figure out how to tell any of these regions apart. Not because the wines are similar, but because it’s so fucking confusing. Did you learn a lot about Chianti?
CS: A lot? No. A little? Yes. And it has to do with classifications: I went for the Gran Selezione today (despite its hefty price tag) because it’s the newest layer of regulatory rigmarole and whatnot. A wine merchant I spoke with last night said it’s basically bullshit. There have always been higher-end Chiantis. This is just the latest wrinkle.
RM: What were you drinking at that crazy 40-course Italian dinner in Philly last week?
CS: Oh, those were all Abruzzese wines. And there were some really good ones, like that orange wine I mention in the piece.
RM: I’ve actually been there [to Abruzzo]. It’s beautiful. Love the seafood along the Adriatic.
CS: Jealous. After the feast last week, I would love to check it out.
RM: So I learned a lot about Italian wine during the fortnight, actually, and mostly that if I’m going to venture into more Italian drinking, it’ll be Piedmontese or Sicilian.
CS: I’ve had some good Sicilian wine recently.
RM: Are you gonna continue your exploration of Chiantis? Curious about Super Tuscans?
CS: I will continue to dive deep into both, of course. I would also like to propose a whole new classification: the “Evil Tuscan.” Super Tuscan needs a nemesis, after all.
CS: Maybe this one could blend grapes of both worlds, New and Old, though I guess that would make it more of a “Bizarro Tuscan.” Either way.
RM: It’s a strong idea. Endless marketing spin-offs. Hollywood films. Netflix specials. Gastronomic tours.
CS: All Evil Tuscan wine lists!
RM: Love it. Pairs great with pizza diavola and pasta puttanesca.
CS: So many pairings!
RM: OK, so, final thoughts? For me, I like some of the Super Tuscans, but I’m still not a big Chianti guy. This wine we’re drinking feels heavy on my tongue, like there’s a slab of haloumi on it. You?
CS: I’ve experienced a mixed bag with both Chiantis and Super Tuscans, but isn’t that true of every region?
CS: Which region is your fail-safe?
RM: Burgundy, lately the Loire; even Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, I feel, is remarkably consistent.
CS: Oregon Pinot Noir used to be mine. Now I’m looking for a new one. Thanks a lot, OPP!
RM: Those bastards! Let’s try the new Americans next time. We’ll invite a millennial guest host and maybe find you a new go-to. You’re turning into one of those grumpy old dads. You need to learn to love again.